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Authentic and affluent: Choosing product lines that complement your salon

By Jillian Mitchell

Photo by Elise Nadeau.

The stylists at Berns and Black salon have a passion for beauty, a dedication to environment, and a selection of product lines to match. Many of their lines contain biodegradable ingredients—and, in some cases, are completely vegan. Evidently, green is their “thang”.

“It’s our mission to only carry eco-friendly products, but I think every salon needs to find products that follow their own mission statement,” stylist Mallory Hildebrandt of Berns and Black affirms. “Product lines should be based on clients’ needs, but helping the environment in the process doesn’t hurt—you can be high fashion and carcinogenic free.”

Complementing your salon’s mission with product lines—stylist Kristina Poturica of rituals in hair and skin salon would agree, wholeheartedly. Whatever your daily rituals, the salon’s line of locally made, natural products will fit your life and your lifestyle—as well as it does their own.

“Choosing a product line is important for a business because it can define who you are as a company; it speaks to your company’s brand,” Poturica says. “The main things I look for in a line is a manufacturer that is community orientated, committed to helping us grow our business, and has quality products that not only perform, but are also environmentally safe for us and our clients.”

Being true to your brand (read: beliefs) is key—if you are authentic, they will come. Find out what makes your salon tick from the inside out. As an added tip, creating a point of difference will make your salon and your product choices even more relevant, Porturica shares. Investing in private labels, for example, can give your salon that extra je ne sais quoi.

No more than two, please.

Certainly, it is important to give your clients options, but too many may cause pandemonium.

“The number of lines is totally dependant on the salon’s size, location, and price point, and that if you can satisfy all or most of the salon and consumer demands, the fewer brands and inventory the better,” shares sales manager Mike McMahon of Summit Salon Services, a popular Saskatchewan-based distributor serving the Prairie provinces. “In our world, one or two is the optimum; however, salons in high-traffic areas, such as a shopping mall, may carry upwards of three lines.

Indeed, carrying a green line—as both Berns and Black and rituals in hair and skin do—is a continuing industry trend, agrees Sharon Sharpe-Titus, co-owner of Saskatchewan-based distributor ESP Salon Sales and president of SST Cosmetics Inc. As the former stylist confirms, today’s industry buzzwords have a tendency toward the eco-conscious, with phrases such as “paraben-free” and “free of harsh chemicals” at the top of the list.

As for price-point, offering a low- mid- and high-end line is ideal, but not essential. Again, it is dependent on the clientele of your salon, she says.

Sales, sales, and sales

While services are what ultimately affect the bottom dollar, having product lines that sell well is a bonus. A good retail salon should earn about 20 per cent of their income from retail/merchandise, with an equal percentage of salon space reserved for retail. However, as McMahon reveals, the ideal is not always realized.

A recent study estimated that the average salon retails approximately 10 to 12 per cent of their total service-dollar revenue. The problem, he says, could be attributed to the salon-distributor relationship.

Retail selection at rituals in hair and skin.
Retail selection at rituals in hair and skin.

“We feel that the salons should look at what that distributor is doing for their business,” McMahon says. “Most salons are owned by stylists who never went to school to own a business; we try to help them out with the business aspect.”

In an effort to be proactive, Summit Salon Services offers sales consultations with their clients, as well as a five-day intensive, Summit Business College. Similar services are also offered by fellow distributor ESP Salon Sales.

Inevitably, stylists and distributors alike would agree that a consistent review of inventory is crucial to success. What lines are your key sellers? How many times do you turnover the products annually? If a product turns over at least three to four times, then it is a viable product to keep in stock, Poturica affirms, adding that implementing an inventory management software can be most beneficial in the process.

In short, Sharpe-Titus concludes with this bit of advice for stylists: embrace your knowledge. Stylists need to realize that “it’s their prescription that clients go home with and try to reproduce.” Share the knowledge, she says, and the customer will take ownership.

“The biggest part that people miss is the educating part,” Sharpe-Titus notes. “I just believe that stylists have a world of knowledge and sometimes they underestimate themselves. It’s not a selling process; it’s an education process.”

McMahon concurs—indeed it’s not about pushing sales; it’s about educating your client.

“I really believe that if every stylist told their clients what products they’re putting on their hair and why, that most salons’ retail sales would double. The ‘what’ is a start—but follow up with the ‘why’. The consumers are interested.”

Photo by Elise Nadeau.

“My Top Picks”

Berns and Black

“Our top three products lines are Kevin Murphy, Soma, and Yum Yum. Kevin Murphy is a high-impact editorial styling line that translates to the everyday client. Soma is a bio-degradable, vegan line that appeals to clients with severe allergies—and who are ingredient conscious. Yum Yum is our skincare line that is Canadian based. It appeals to clients who don’t like to put a lot of stuff on their skin. All three lines were considered because of the price point, but also because of their eco-friendly conscious ingredients.”

rituals in hair and skin

“The full lines we carry are Aveda and Schwarzkopf for both hair and body; our smaller lines are MUD (MakeUp Designory) makeup. Yonka is a Parisian facial line we carry that is 75 to 90 per cent naturally derived and essential-oil based. Our private label is rituals in hair and skin and body. These lines are more than enough to cover all of our clients’ requests and needs.”

Summit Salon Services

“Redken by far is our number one brand. They are a full-service manufacturer—16 shampoos and 13 conditioners. We’ve always been a single-line manufacturer; however, we’ve just recently launched Evo (a green hair option). Our makeup line is called Mirabella and it’s a fairly extensive high-end mineral-based line. Mineral based—another industry buzzword—is a higher quality product with a higher price point.”

ESP Salon Sales

“Our top growing brands would be Eufora and Surface. Our Canadian-owned, mineral-based brand launched in 2007 called SST Cosmetics is paraben-free and free of harsh chemicals.”